Tag Archives: Soi Cowboy

How to fight the sex trade in Bangkok

Nana... the main "sex for hire" area for expats in Bangkok

Huge risk

“They actually walk up to bar girls and other trafficked women in bars and brothels and try to offer them ways to escape.

I was listening to a friend of mine who I’ll call Kim.

“It’s a really bold approach. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it really backfires. When it works they can sometimes work with a UN agency that can transport the trafficked women back to their home countries. When it backfires the pimps find out, it gets ugly and you’ve got to get out quick.”

Jammie and I leaned in with interest. We had never heard of any organization tackling sex slavery this directly.

The trap of sex slavery

“Sometimes they can get enough time with the girls that they are able to befriend them.

The stories are so sad. Whether they are Thai women from up north or young Cambodian or Burmese girls, many come here because they are promised well-paid work through which they can support their families. When they get to Bangkok they are forced into the sex industry.”

Kim continued “It’s very hard to leave. Thai girls that are forced into prostitution are often controlled by pimps that threaten them and hold them in economic bondage.

Due to their low levels of education, prostitution is often the most lucrative work available. If they don’t bring in enough “work” they are fined by their handlers and they fall into debt. It’s nasty.

With foreign girls it is even worse because they are often here illegally. Unless they cooperate with their employers, they can be reported to the authorities and locked up at the Immigration Detention Center without documentation.”

It was deeply depressing to listen to.  And the results of what Kim was describing are on open display in Bangkok.

The sexpats that fuel human trafficking

Walk down the street after dark in areas like the Nana district of Bangkok (a major shopping and eating area) and you will see middle-aged male tourists leaning in to negotiate prices with Thai bar girls.

Everywhere you look, men are pulling purchased women into cabs and others are being stopped in the street by prostitutes pressured to meet quotas.

Fighting back

As much as most visitors to Bangkok are shocked by the strength of the sex industry, and while many Thais and foreigners agree that something must be done, most are left scratching their heads about what to actually do to help.

Which brings me back to what Kim was talking about. There are a handful of organizations that are tackling the issue aggressively.

To protect individuals and “undercover” organizations from unwanted mafia-like intervention, I am going to omit names of specific individuals and organizations.

Heroes

But I will say that I have the utmost admiration for their bravery and willingness to step up to the plate.

One lady that I talked to had moved to Bangkok from the US with her husband and kids to work with a ministry that taught ex prostitutes valuable life skills including how to make a decent living making jewelry.

A handful of organizations do what Kim described at the top of this post:  Female aid workers walk Nana, Soi Cowboy and Patpong (the biggest red light districts) and try to start a dialogue with bar girls, massage parlor (often a front for brothels) staff and other prostitutes.

They befriend their contacts and offer them alternate ways to make a living or ways to get the financial and legal means to return to their home countries if they are foreign.

It is hard work. Although prostitution is technically illegal in Thailand, police are paid off by pimps and bar owners to look the other way. So it is hard to count on support from the authorities.

Sometimes you feel like you are not even making the smallest dent in the problem. Everything feels hopeless and the challenges of fighting sex slavery seem insurmountable.

Not impossible!!

But I want to end on an admittedly sentimental note: As I write these words I am on a British Airways flight 32,000 feet above Russia. Jammie and I have completed our three months in Bangkok and are headed to Buenos Aires to start our work there.

It’s hard not to feel a twinge of emotion as I think back to the orphans we said goodbye to a few hours ago, the inmates that we had the privilege of working with and the dozens of friends that we made during our time in Thailand. We leave feeling incredibly inspired by the stories they have told us and the way each of them works to improve their community, their city.

One of the most inspirational things I got to personally witness happened during the coffee hour at a church I visited one Sunday.

I was quizzing an aid worker and she told me about the results of her organization’s work fighting the sex industry.

“There’s an entire table over there full of women that have been liberated from prostitution. They are now making a living for themselves and their families creating jewelry. This can work. They can have a brighter future!”

Indeed they can.

This, my final post before I start chronicling our Argentina adventures, is dedicated to the brave heroes that take the risks to rescue those that are currently enslaved. We will forever be inspired by your bravery, dedication and service. Thank you, thank you, thank you for what you do.

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8 Things About Hot Thai Girls that Get With Ugly White Men

Soi Cowboy - one of Bangkok's main red light districts....

I grew up seeing it all the times in the Philippines. I even wrote a CultureMutt post about it a while ago: ugly old white guys with hot Filipina girls. Although it was surprising at first, you got used to seeing it. As soon as Jammie and I landed in Thailand we started to see the same thing here. Only it was even more prevalent. AND it felt like there was an even seedier undertone.

Everywhere you look in the touristy corners of Bangkok, white, middle-aged travelers have a hot Thai girl in tow. Jammie and I have asked our local friends about this and here are a few explanations we’ve been given for why Thai girls go for these men:

Worst Case Scenario – As depressing as it is, it needs to be said: prostitution is alive and well in Bangkok. Areas like Patpong, Nana and Soi Cowboy are teeming with sexpats and Asian prostitutes. For many, prostitution has become a form of modern-day slavery.

Jammie and I will be collaborating with a group that is working to prevent child prostitution later during our stay in Thailand. Key to solving the problem is presenting viable economic alternatives to families. Prostitution has often been seen as the most lucrative profession for young women with little education and other earning options. One of the best ways to fight prostitution is to present better ways to earn a living.

White Men are Seen As Affluent – A lot of older white men in Thailand are traveling on little more than their Social Security checks. Although this is not much to live on back home, this income puts them in a higher income category than most Thais. So the stereotype of the wealthy white foreigner is understandable. Just as rich guys in the West attract hot women, white men here are seen as wealthy and therefore attract hot Thai girls.

Better Living in Thailand – The dollar or euro stretches far in Thailand and the average old white guy looking for a hot Thai girl is going to live at a relatively high standard of living while they are in Thailand. Even if there is nothing else in the cards, this alone will motivate some Thai women to want to be with tourists.

A Way Out of Thailand – Here’s the bigger goal for many Thai women: go home with the tourist. As in all the way home and out of Thailand. And that’s how you get old white guys hobbling around with hot Thai girls back home. It looks crazy but when you understand why it happens, it starts to explain things.

They Actually Prefer White Guys – This part came as a bit of a surprise to me. And it’s good news for white dudes wanting to snag a hot Thai girl: she may actually prefer white guys. For reasons other than just finances. What are these reasons? Keep reading.

They Think White Men Will Be Better Husbands – It is a sad nonsecret in Thailand. Married Thai men often have mistresses. Now obviously marital unfaithfulness is not exactly rare in the US or Europe either. The difference comes in the degree of social acceptance of mistresses. It happens a lot in Thailand. Much more than it does in Western countries.

And Better Boyfriends Single Thai guys often have lots of different girls going at the same time. Again, I’m not saying that you don’t get a lot of players stateside but the idea of only having one girlfriend at a time is more of a cultural norm in the West.

Thai women know all this and therefore many of them prefer the farang (foreigner) because he is more likely to be faithful.

They Find White Guys Exotic – Here’s a crowd pleaser to end with. Whenever you are up against a numbers game and a certain kind of man is a rarity, the laws of supply and demand come into play. One trend that I have seen more and more of over the years in Asia is hot local girls with equally attractive foreigners. At least part of the reason for this is a much more “normal” one: opposites attract and because there aren’t a lot of foreigners around they are a bit of a catch.

Over to you: Are you in an interracial relationship in Thailand or Asia? Or do you know someone that is? How would you add to the above list? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section.

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Bjorn Karlman

Bangkok, Thailand